The Nature of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation
Updated: Feb 3, 2020
The mystical intercourse between God, as the Father, and His chosen Mouthpiece, the Prophet, as the Mother, gives birth to Divine Revelation which in turn brings forth the Word of God. It is not possible for man to understand the nature of this sacred relationship, a relationship through which God is linked with His Manifestation. Our limited knowledge in this field is derived from the words of Bahá'u'lláh, and words are inadequate tools for the expression of a spiritual reality.
The revealed Word has an inner spirit and an outer form. The innermost spirit is limitless in its potentialities; it belongs to the world of the uncreated and is generated by the Holy Spirit of God. The outer form of the Word of God acts as a channel through which the stream of God's Holy Spirit flows. It has its limitations inasmuch as it pertains to the world of man. Like a mother who impresses on her child certain traits of her own character, the Bearer of the Message of God influences the outer form of the Word of God. For example, Muhammad was born among the people of Arabia and spoke the Arabic language. Therefore, the Word of God recorded in the Qur'án took a form which is closely linked with His background. Because Bahá'u'lláh was a Persian, the Word of God in this age is revealed in both the Persian and Arabic languages. The personality of Bahá'u'lláh, the style of His Writings, the nature of the Persian language, its idioms and its proverbs, the stories He relates of the lives of His contemporaries in that country and the lands to which He was exiled, all contribute to the form of the revealed Word in this Dispensation.
Although Bahá'u'lláh did not attend any of the schools for the divines or learned classes, yet men of letters have testified that His Writings both in Arabic and Persian, viewed solely from the literary point of view, are unsurpassed in their beauty, richness and eloquence. Although unfamiliar with the Arabic language, its vast vocabulary and the complexities of its grammar, which normally took the divines a lifetime to master, Bahá'u'lláh has so enriched Arabic literature with His Writings that He has created, as Muhammad did in His day, a style which has inspired Bahá'í scholars and writers ever since. The same is true of His Writings in Persian.
Not only will the reader be enchanted and uplifted by the beauty of His style, the eloquence of His words, the flow and lucidity of His composition and the profundity of His utterances, but he will also find that Bahá'u'lláh has originated a new terminology which contributes, in large measure, to a fuller and deeper understanding of the verities of the world of the spirit.
The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, which are usually known as Tablets, are revealed in either Persian or Arabic and often in both. There are many Tablets which are partly in Persian and partly in Arabic. In one of His Tablets He has referred to Arabic as the 'language of eloquence' and to Persian as the 'language of light' and the 'sweet language'. His Arabic Writings are filled with power and authority and His utterances in this language appear in their greatest majesty and eloquence.
His Persian Writings are beautiful, warm and soul-stirring. Unlike other writers who seek to work in peaceful surroundings, Bahá'u'lláh revealed most of His Tablets while enduring the afflictions of four successive exiles.
In order to write, any writer must rely on his knowledge and learning. He will have to meditate on the subject and undertake research. After much work he may produce a book in which always there will be ample room for improvement, and not infrequently he will feel it necessary to rewrite the entire book. This is not so in the case of the Manifestations of God Who do not rely on Their own human accomplishments.
When revelation came to Bahá'u'lláh, the Word of God poured forth from His lips and was recorded by His amanuensis or, occasionally, was written by Himself. His words flowed with such rapidity that, as attested by Himself in one of His Tablets, His amanuensis was often incapable of recording them.
The Qur'án, the Holy Book of Islám, consists of approximately six thousand three hundred verses. It was revealed by Muhammad during the course of twenty-three years. In this Dispensation, however, the outpouring of Divine Revelation has been vouchsafed to humanity in such profusion that, within the span of one hour, the equivalent of one thousand verses was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. 'So great is the grace vouchsafed in this day', Bahá'u'lláh testifies, 'that in a single day and night, were an amanuensis capable of accomplishing it to be found, the equivalent of the Persian Bayán would be sent down from the heaven of Divine holiness.'
As if the gates of heaven were flung open, the Word of God for this age enveloped humanity. During the forty years of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry, this earth was immersed in an ocean of Revelation, which released enormous spiritual energies whose potentialities no one can as yet apprehend. The Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, which constitute the Holy Scriptures for the whole of mankind, are so vast in their range that, as attested by Himself, they would, if fully compiled, amount to no less than one hundred volumes.
The person who for most of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry acted as His amanuensis was Mírzá Áqá Ján of Káshán, entitled Khádimu'lláh (Servant of God). Apart from being His amanuensis, Mírzá Áqá Ján also used to wait on Bahá'u'lláh and was often addressed by Him as 'Abd-i-Hádir (Servant in Attendance). He did not belong to the learned class. He had an elementary education and in his youth used to make soap and sell it for a living in Káshán. He came to 'Iráq soon after the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh in that country and his first meeting with Him took place in the house of a friend in Karbilá. It was there that he sensed a great spiritual power emanating from Bahá'u'lláh, a power which transformed his whole being and filled him with a consuming love for his Beloved. He was the first one to whom Bahá'u'lláh gave an intimation of His station, later honouring him with the responsibility of serving as His amanuensis.
Notwithstanding this bounty, Mírzá Áqá Ján, who for almost forty years was so intimately associated with Bahá'u'lláh and His Revelation, ultimately betrayed his Lord. After the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh he rebelled against 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of His Covenant, and joined hands with the arch-breaker of that Covenant. During the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh, however, Mírzá Áqá Ján assiduously served Him in his capacity as amanuensis and would make himself available to Bahá'u'lláh at any time of the day or night.
Whenever revelation came to Bahá'u'lláh, whether in His humble dwelling in Baghdád, or in the bitter cold of Adrianople, whether sailing by sea or travelling by land, whether in the prison cell of 'Akká or in His spacious Mansion at Bahjí, Mírzá Áqá Ján was invariably ready with quantities of paper, some ink-pots and a bundle of reed pens to record the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh as they streamed from His lips. Owing to the rapidity with which His words were revealed, the first recordings were not easily legible and had to be transcribed again. After approving these Tablets Bahá'u'lláh sometimes authenticated them with one of His seals.
Apart from one seal which bore His name, Husayn-'Alí, Bahá'u'lláh had altogether ten seals which were made at different times during His ministry. Only one of them bears the inscription 'Bahá'u'lláh'. A few contain passages which describe Him as a Prisoner and the One Whom the world has wronged. Others declare in majestic language and unmistakable terms His incomparable authority, His transcendent majesty and His glorious station as the Supreme Manifestation of God and His Vicegerent on this earth.
Among those who took part in the transcription of the Tablets was 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who was occupied with this work from His early teens in Baghdád to the end of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry. Many of the original Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh are in the handwriting of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Once the Tablet was written, several copies had to be made for the purpose of disseminating them among the believers. There were times in Bahá'u'lláh's life when the outpourings of Divine Revelation were so profuse that even a number of scribes, working day and night to transcribe His Tablets, were still unable to cope with them all. Some have left to posterity volumes of compilations in their own handwritings.
Notable among these was Mullá Zaynu'l-'Ábidín, surnamed Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín (the ornament of them that are nigh unto God) by Bahá'u'lláh. Before his conversion to the Bábí Faith, he was a learned mujtahid (doctor of Islámic law) and an outstanding figure in his native town of Najaf-Ábád. He became an ardent Bábí about the time of the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh in the Síyáh-Chál, and was bitterly opposed and persecuted by those very people who were once his admirers and followers. Later he travelled to Baghdád and eventually attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh after His return from the mountains of Kurdistán. As a result of this meeting and of receiving some Tablets from Bahá'u'lláh, his soul was transformed and attained such heights of faith and dedication that he is numbered among the outstanding Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh. After his release from a long period of exile and imprisonment in Mosul, 'Iráq, he made his way to 'Akká where he spent the rest of his days in Bahá'u'lláh's service, mostly as a scribe.
He was meticulous in transcribing the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and took great pains to ensure that they were correctly recorded. Any Tablet in the handwriting of Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín is considered accurate. He has left to posterity, in his exquisite hand, many volumes comprising most of Bahá'u'lláh's important Tablets; today Bahá'í publications in Persian and Arabic are authenticated by comparison with these.
Another work associated with his inquisitive and brilliant mind is the book Questions and Answers by Bahá'u'lláh. Being a mujtahid and thus highly qualified in the application of Islámic laws, Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín received permission from Bahá'u'lláh to ask any questions he might have regarding the application of the laws revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. The answers given by Bahá'u'lláh provide further elucidation and expansion of His laws and this book is regarded as a supplement to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
The story, however brief, of the life of Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín will not be complete without referring to his great sense of humour which always cheered the believers. At times he used to make amusing remarks in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, some of which are even recorded in certain narratives.
Another person of outstanding qualities who performed distinguished services in the field of transcription was the celebrated calligrapher Mírzá Husayn, surnamed Mishkín-Qalam, a native of Isfahán who, like Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín, was endowed with the gift of humour.
Before embracing the Faith, Mishkín-Qalam was closely associated with the court of Násiri'd-Dín Sháh in Tihrán where he held a position of some eminence. Once the Sháh allowed him to pay a short visit to his home in Isfahán; it was on this occasion that he met a Bahá'í and as a result accepted the Faith. He did not return to the court of the Sháh, but travelled instead to Adrianople where he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. From that time he dedicated his life wholly to the Cause. Later, Bahá'u'lláh sent him on an important mission to Constantinople to counter the misrepresentations which had been spread abroad in royal circles by the notorious Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání. After some time, through the intrigues of Siyyid Muhammad and his associates, Mishkín-Qalam and a few other Bahá'ís were imprisoned in Constantinople. They were later sent to Gallipoli to await the arrival of Bahá'u'lláh and His companions on their way to 'Akká. It was in Gallipoli that the fate of Mishkín-Qalam was determined by the authorities; he and three other disciples of Bahá'u'lláh were sent to Cyprus in company with Mírzá Yahyá, the breaker of the Covenant of the Báb and the arch-enemy of Bahá'u'lláh.
Mishkín-Qalam was an exile in Cyprus for about nine years, but the influence of Bahá'u'lláh had so permeated his soul that, notwithstanding his long association with the perfidious Yahyá, he remained steadfast in the Cause, indomitable in faith, and unswervingly loyal to his Lord.
As soon as freedom came to him in 1294 A.H. (circa A.D. 1878), he left for 'Akká; there he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh Who permitted him to reside in that city. He was a companion, a devoted servant and one of the Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh, an artist of remarkable talent, unsurpassed as a calligrapher, and a genius in the creation of exquisite designs from letters and words. Among his works of art are some which have been made merely by the impression of his finger-nails on a sheet of blank paper.
Mishkín-Qalam spent many years of his life transcribing the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá. There are several volumes of these in his beautiful writing, and his name is immortalized by his signs and symbols and his design of the 'Greatest Name'.
One of the major features of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is the authenticity of its revealed Word. Unlike the Dispensations of the past, when the words of the Prophet were not recorded at the time they were uttered, the words of Bahá'u'lláh were written down as He dictated them. In many cases the circumstances in which He revealed His Tablets are recorded by His amanuensis, or by other trusted companions and pilgrim disciples who at one time or another were privileged to be in His presence.
The onrushing force of the Holy Spirit produced, at the time of revelation, awe-inspiring physical effects on Bahá'u'lláh. An ordinary human being becomes overwhelmed when he receives news of exceptional import: how much more, then, would the human temple of the Manifestation of God be affected when it becomes the channel through which the Holy Spirit of God flows to mankind.
No one except His amanuensis was allowed to be present at the time of revelation, but occasionally some of the believers were permitted to remain for a short time. Those who received this privilege witnessed a special glory and radiance which emanated from Him. So dazzling was His transfiguration that many found themselves unable to gaze on His face.
One such was Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, a native of Isfahán, who embraced the Faith soon after its inception. He first attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople. From there he was sent by Bahá'u'lláh to Constantinople where he acted as a channel of communication between Him and the believers in Persia and 'Iráq. Later, he was sent to Egypt where he was arrested by the enemies of the Faith and dispatched as a prisoner to the Súdán. The persecutions which he suffered there for many years served only to strengthen his faith and intensify his love for Bahá'u'lláh. After his release, he went straight to 'Akká where he was privileged to remain for some months in the presence of his Lord. Then, directed by Him, he went to Persia where he served the Cause as an outstanding Bahá'í teacher for many years. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí played a major role in the promotion and protection of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh after His ascension, defending it most ably against the onslaught of the unfaithful band of Covenant-breakers who were determined to undermine the edifice of the Cause of God and to uproot its institutions. The latter part of his long and eventful life was spent in the service of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land. He died in Haifa and is buried in the Bahá'í Cemetery on Mount Carmel.
It was during one of his visits to 'Akká that Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí was allowed to enter the presence of Bahá'u'lláh at the time of revelation. He has left to posterity the following brief account of that memorable occasion:
...When permission was granted and the curtain was withdrawn, I entered the room where the King of kings and the Ruler of this world and the next, nay rather the Ruler of all the worlds of God, was with great authority seated on His couch. The verses of God were being revealed and the words streamed forth as in a copious rain. Methought the door, the wall, the carpet, the ceiling, the floor and the air were all perfumed and illumined. They all had been transformed, each and every one, into ears and were filled with a spirit of joy and ecstasy. Each object had become refreshed and was pulsating with life...To which worlds I was transported and in what state I was, no one who has not experienced such as this can ever know.3
It has been said that one of the effects of the revelation of Tablets on Bahá'u'lláh was that He would remain for some time after in a state of excitement and, as a result, would be unable to eat.
Excerpt from the Revelation of Baha'u'llah